Would anybody have paid any attention to Dwayne Johnson if we hadn't already gotten to know him as 'The Rock'? Would Lady Gaga's music have captured everybody's imagination the way it did if she was just Stefani Germanotta (even though that's a really cool name)? We can't say for sure.
Celebrities change from a real name to a stage name for a variety of reasons. Sometimes it's because they want something marketable. Other times, it's just because their real name just isn't that memorable. There's a reason why nobody called John Smith has ever starred in a big Hollywood movie.
Whether it's because their name was too long, too plain or didn't fit the image they were going for, having a stage name has been a must for any self-respecting star ever since fame became a career option. Here are fifty celebrities who are better known by their pseudonyms!
If you thought you saw the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle earlier on this year and loved it, you actually didn't. Neither of the people advertised on the wedding invites were using their real name! The American actress who became the Duchess of Sussex is, or was, called Rachel Megan Markle. Coincidentally, that's the same name as her character from 'Suits', the role that made her famous.
The Duchess has never gone on record with the reason why she prefers to use her middle name professionally; although the alliteration works very well. Her husband doesn't have any room to criticize her naming choices anyway; the world knows him as Prince Harry, but his birth name is Henry Charles Albert David Windsor. We wonder if the Queen of England called them Rachel and Henry when they pop round for dinner?
There are a lot of attributes required from a person trying to make it in the entertainment world. Talent is obviously one of them, and luck is another, but having a name that casting directors and agencies can both remember and pronounce is a big plus, too. We suspect that's why Mindy Kaling goes with a heavily abbreviated version of her real name.
Kaling's parents are both Indian and named her accordingly. To Westerners, Indian names can be very long, difficult to pronounce and even more difficult to remember. Kaling probably wasn't getting all that many callbacks or auditioning opportunities under her full name of Vera Mindy Chokalingham, so we understand why she went with her middle name and made her last name shorter. What's wrong with 'Vera' though? Vera Kaling sounds just as cool as the name she settled on!
Many times on this list, you'll see someone who's name sounded a little ordinary or common, and immediately understand why they swapped it for something that was more likely to command respect or attention. That isn't the case for the singer who was born Destiny Hope Cyrus in 1992; the performer better known to all of us as Miley already had a name destined to make it in entertainment. So why did she change it?
Actually, there's a cute reason for the change. Cyrus has been known by 'Miley' ever since she was a baby. She was apparently a giggly and happy baby, and her parents Tish and country music star Billy Ray Cyrus nicknamed her 'smiley', which was shortened to 'Miley' based on her inability to pronounce the word when she was a toddler. It stuck, and that's how she's been known ever since!
Reese Witherspoon is one of those names that you'd probably be on the fence about being real or being a stage persona. In truth, it's a little bit of both. The superstar actress took both of her names from her family, she just went a slightly unconventional way about doing it.
Oscar winner and 'Legally Blonde' star Witherspoon was born Laura Jeanne Reese-Witherspoon, with the 'Reese' part of her name actually being her mother's maiden name. She might have taken it on as a first name because she decided Laura and Jeanne sounded too plain, or it may have been a way of honoring her mother and her family. Either way, we can't imagine her as anything else now. Calling her Laura would just feel wrong, and Jeanne Witherspoon sounds like a country music singer!
All around the world, for most of the past twenty-five years, women have been dreaming of dating Brad Pitt, and men have wanted to be him; little knowing that the person they were actually visualizing is William Bradley Pitt. The legendary actor's stage name is exactly that; a stage name, and he apparently goes by William in everyday life. According to an article that was printed in Page Six magazine, he's particularly likely to use his real name when he's flirting!
There's something about Pitt's true name that sounds like it belongs to a time centuries ago, and possibly with good reason; William Pitt has been the name of not one but two different Prime Ministers of Great Britain from the 1700s and 1800s. We wonder if the 'Fight Club' star can trace his line back to British aristocracy?
If you didn't know who Lana Del Ray was, and you were asked to picture someone with that name, you'd probably imagine an exotic beauty somewhere on a sun-drenched beach living a life of impossible luxury and glamour. That tells us it was a great choice of pseudonym; it's a very evocative name.
In truth, Elizabeth Woolridge Grant tried out a few names for size before she settled on the one we know her by now. If you'd been lucky enough to see her during her early days, you might have seen performances by 'Lizzy Grant and the Phenomena', and 'Sparkle Rope Jump Queen'. Perhaps deciding that the latter might have been a tiny step too far, she thought back to the Cuban girls that she and her sister used to play with as children and borrowed from a combination of their names to form her own.
Not all celebrities completely change their name when they select a pseudonym, of course. "Tick Tock" singer Ke$ha just did away with everything but her first name, added a dollar symbol, and the rest is infectiously catchy pop music history.
Kesha Rose Sebert was the full birth name of this star, who's been absent from the world of music these past few years after a bitter dispute with her record company. Some people initially took the dollar symbol to be obnoxious and vain, but Ke$ha actually meant it to be taken ironically; neither he nor her family had any money when she was growing up, so the idea of her being associated with it was a joke. We're sure she's doing pretty well for herself these days; although it would be nice if someone let her come back and make some new music.
Gigi Hadid is a great name. It's a name which conjures images of beauty and grace before you even see the person it's attached to. That makes it a great name for a supermodel. It's also not her real name, although it's close enough, and it actually comes from a nickname her mother was given by her grandmother.
Hadid is her surname, but her full name is actually Jelena Noura Hadid, which isn't quite as catchy. Apparently, 'Gigi' was what her mother was called when she was running around the house as a child; and in turn, she used the same nickname to refer to her own daughter. It caught on, and when fame came calling, Hadid decided it was a better fit for her than the name on her birth certificate. We wonder if her boyfriend, One Direction star Zayn Malik, calls her 'Jelena' or 'Gigi' when they're at home?
He's been around the world of music and general superstardom for so long that you might occasionally forget that Jon Bon Jovi doesn't really sound like the kind of name a real person might have. It isn't, though, it's a stage name, and one that's quite obvious when you take the time to notice it. The 'Livin' on a Prayer' singer and rock star actually stayed closer to home when choosing his name than you might have guessed, though.
His real name is John Francis Bongiovi, Jr. He never truly intended to change it, either, but got bored of having to explain to people how to pronounce it before the band were introduced, or when trying to obtain a record deal. He would tell people he was called 'Jon-Bon-Jovi', which was supposed to help them pronounce his second name, but in the end, it was just easier to go with the phonetic spelling.
There's nothing particularly outlandish about the name 'Julianne Moore', and it seems like the kind of name you might encounter from anybody you meet in the street. Therefore, it's quite surprising when you find out it's a pseudonym, but it is. This Oscar winner and Hollywood mainstay is actually Julie Anne Smith. As we said at the start of the article, there's never been a famous John Smith, so it's probably fair to say there would never be a famous Julie Smith either.
The reason for the change wasn't because she found the name dull, though. There were already actresses working under the names Julie Smith and Julie Anne Smith when Moore started her career, so she took her father's middle name in place of Smith, pushed her first two names together, and became someone new.
Do you think that Kit Harington is the real name of the 'Game of Thrones' star? If so, you know nothing, Jon Snow! It's not far off though; the actor is really called Christopher Catesby Harington. Don't worry if you didn't know that; he didn't actually know his real name himself until he was eleven years old and saw it on a school register!
Even though he was born 'Christopher', his own parents called him 'Kit' as a nickname from the moment he was born, and he never had reason to believe any differently. That's apparently not a rare thing within his family; his brother goes by John but was actually born Jack. Maybe Mr. and Mrs. Harington should have waited a little longer before deciding on final names for their offspring! Unfortunately, we have no information as to where the delightfully unusual middle name comes from.
It's pretty much a given that no rapper actually goes by their real name; it's just not the done thing within that genre of music. Wiz Khalifa probably could have though, his real moniker is Cameron Jibril Thomaz. Apparently, his last name really is spelled with the 'z' at the end, which marks it out as pretty distinctive on its own, so where did his stage name come from?
The answer is typically modest! According to the man himself, his first rap name was 'Young Wiz', because he was good at everything he did. It must be fantastic to have that kind of confidence. The second part, 'Khalifa', is an Arabic word meaning 'successor', so you could roughly translate his stage name as 'Great Successor'. That's quite the statement of intent. We can't argue with it though; his success to date more than backs it up.
We already mentioned Lady Gaga in passing at the start of the article. She's an icon of music and fashion, and after the success of her appearances in 'American Horror Story' and 'A Star Is Born' she can add 'actress' to her CV as well without it being a stretch. The world waited a long time for an heir to Madonna to appear; Gaga was well worth the wait.
Like Madonna, her real name is quite exotic to begin with; Stefani Germanotta. The title she chose is much more impressive and catchy, though. Apparently when she was still in the education system, during the early days of Facebook, her jealous classmates created a group called 'Stefani Germanotta, you will never be famous'. We suspect that every single one of them went on to delete their accounts.
Another entry in the 'rock stars have to have cool names' canon. There's nothing wrong with the real name of this legendary frontman and glam rock icon, which is Bret Michael Sychak. But when it came to picking a moniker that his growing army of fans would remember and come to worship, he must have decided that his last name was just poison!
In an interesting twist, Michaels is sometimes asked if he's related to WWE legend Shawn Michaels, as the two are roughly the same age and bear more than a passing resemblance. There's no blood connection between them, but they both used the same naming strategy. The wrestler's name is really Michael Shawn Hickenbottom; both men decided to drop their surname and use 'Michaels' as a last name. They'd have made a great tag team in their prime!
Bruno Mars is just a name that's too cool to be true, so most people would probably have guessed that it isn't real. The consummate professional entertainer has been singing and putting on shows since he was five years old, and always knew he was destined for fame. He just needed the right name to put on all the billboards, and if there's a better name in showbiz, we haven't heard it.
Would things have turned out quite the same if he'd been plain old Peter Gene Hernandez? We're not sure. Gene Hernandez is good in its own right, but it sounds like it should belong to somebody older. And can you really imagine walking up to Mars for an autograph and calling him 'Peter'? It just doesn't fit! He actually owes his name to the world of professional wrestling; his father gave him the 'Bruno' name after his favorite wrestler, WWE Hall of Famer Bruno Sammartino.
Beauty. Elegance. Grace. Charm. Those are the first four things that come to mind when you think about talented actress Olivia Wilde. Probably still best known for her work on 'House' she's accruing a significant number of movie credits these days, and her star is still on the rise. She's probably glad that she changed her last name from Cockburn, which is how she was born. That's the kind of unfortunate name that probably got her teased at school.
In a move that's befitting of her class and sophistication, when the time came for Wilde to choose a new name as her ticket to the stars, she went to the world of poetry and literature, and borrowed it straight from her favorite writer Oscar Wilde. If you're going to steal something, you might as well steal from one of the all-time greats.
In the 21st century, we invented a new genre of celebrity who were seemingly famous for nothing other than being famous. That's where Perez Hilton came from; he was just a blogger who wrote about famous people, and he did it so often and garnered so much attention that he eventually became famous in his own right. It helped that he had a stage name - not that he ever spent any time on stage - that was a memorable play on words.
Hilton is actually of Spanish descent, hence his real name, which is Mario Armando Lavandeira, Jr. That was never going to get the attention-craving blogger the spotlight that he so craved, so he jumped onto the coat-tails of Paris Hilton as she rose to celebrity prominence, respected his own heritage by changing 'Paris' to 'Perez' and soon he had the most must-see blog anywhere on the internet.
Depending on where you live in the world, and your age, when someone says 'Fergie' you'll either think of legendary soccer manager and former Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson, former Duchess of York Sarah Ferguson, or the female lead of the Black Eyed Peas. It's the latter we're focusing on here!
Obviously, Fergie isn't her real name. That would be Stacy Ann Ferguson. If you have a long memory, and you watched 'Kids Incorporated' when you were younger, you might remember her appearances on that show using her real name. It's not a name that lends itself well to hip hop, though, and so when the Black Eyed Peas were formed she shortened everything down to just an abbreviation of her last name. Now it's impossible to think of her as anything else. We're not sure what was wrong with Stacy as a name though; where is the love?
This is another stage name that's kind of obvious. Nobody's called 'Vin Diesel'. You can probably work out that 'Vin' is short for 'Vincent', and it is, but 'Vincent Diesel' doesn't sound likely either. That's because we're still way off the mark! 'Vincent' is actually the action movie hero's last name; his first name is the much less dramatic 'Mark'.
So where did the name come from? Well, in the days before fame, he put his burly frame to good use as a nightclub bouncer in New York. At the time, bouncers were advised never to give out their real name for their own safety, so he just called himself 'Vin'. The 'Diesel' part arrived when his colleagues nicknamed him 'Diesel' because he had relentless energy, like a diesel engine. Put the two together, and you have a name that became a serious Hollywood box office draw!
Portia de Rossi is a name that brings to mind all manner of exotic images. It sounds Italian, and classy, and vaguely aristocratic. You could imagine a woman with a name like that lounging on a recliner in Tuscany, drinking fine wine and enjoying the sun without a care in the world. That, of course, would be a fiction, as is this Australian actress's name. The wife of Ellen DeGeneres is actually plain old Amanda Lee Rogers.
If you're wondering how she arrived at the new name, she's told the story herself. She was always ambitious as a young woman, and by 15 she was getting regular acting work. Feeling that her name was too ordinary to really capture people's attention, she decided to reinvent herself completely, and gave herself a deliberately glamorous and aspirational name. Based on her career trajectory since, it definitely worked. We doubt Amanda Lee Rogers would ever have left Australia.
Carmen Electra is a great name for a superhero or a professional wrestler. It suggests someone who's upbeat and exciting. That's exactly what's supposed to do, and exactly why Tara Leigh Patrick chose it. Plus, she was given the instruction to choose something a little more exotic by one of the greatest musicians in history, and she was never going to turn down that advice.
As she was first trying to break into the showbiz world back in 1990, Electra was lucky enough to find herself working with Prince, as a backup singer. The 'Purple Rain' legend was quick to identify both her looks and her talent, and - as he did with many people over the years - decided to help her launch a career of her own by writing songs for her and helping with the recording, but he also advised her to pick something more stand-out as a title. We wonder if he also helped her come up with the name?
The star of what seems like a thousand action movies, starting with 'Top Gun' and continuing to the present day with the 'Mission Impossible' franchise, Tom Cruise is famous within the industry for insisting on doing his own stunts. The greatest stunt he may ever have pulled, though, is picking a cool and snappy sounding stage name instead of going by the one he was born with.
If you could find Cruise's birth certificate, you'd see that he was born Thomas Cruise Mapother IV. Considering there were presumably four men with the same name who'd been born consecutively by that point, the time was probably right for a change! The unwieldy and hard-to-pronounce last name got cut, along with the numerals. The first name got shortened, the middle name became a last name, and an icon of the big screen was born.
Very few people are actually born with the name 'Queen'; we suspect the Queen of England might have something to say when people are! Queen Latifah may have earned the title, though. She's done everything, from rapping to acting to TV production. Her career has touched almost every part of the entertainment industry. Not bad for the girl who was born Dana Elaine Owens. It's a solid enough name, but it doesn't have that award-winning glitz to it!
There's no mistaking where she got the first part of her stage name from; many a young rapper chooses a title that's going to get them attention and makes a statement about their ability and status. As a woman, 'Queen' is about as big as it gets. There's a more charming explanation for 'Latifah', though; as a child, she was flicking through an Arabic book of names when she came across the word and having read that it means 'delicate' and 'very kind', thought it would suit her perfectly.
This is an interesting one; and by that we don't just mean that Charlie Sheen is interesting. That's already self-explanatory. Hollywood's wild child has had quite the career of big roles and big headlines. But the way he arrived at his name could only happen if you had famous parents.
Sheen's father, as you probably know, is 'Apocalypse Now' star Martin Sheen. But his father didn't use his real name either; he was born Ramon Estevez and named his eldest son Carlos Estevez. That left the young Sheen with two choices; go into acting with his real name or do exactly as his father did; take something that sounded 'more American' and use the name that his father famous as a foot in the door. He chose that route. His brother, Emilio Estevez, chose to walk the other path!
Well, obviously Pink isn't really called Pink. She's quite well known by her real name these days as well because she doesn't make any great secret about it. She's Alecia Beth Moore. Younger fans might know her as the blonde superstar who's successfully combined pop, rap and rock and ballads over the course of her long career, but if you were around for the start of her career, you might remember that she used to have bright pink hair; it was her trademark when she released 'Most Girls' in 2000. So, was she simply named after her hair?
Actually, it was the other way around. She was a girl who tried every passing fashion when she was at school; in the same way that her music range has been eclectic, she was a skateboarder, a hip-hop fan and a raver, all at the same time. It earned her the nickname 'Mr. Pink', after the 'Reservoir Dogs' character.
We've mentioned her name already, and she was always inevitably going to make an appearance herself. The Queen of Pop, Madonna, has been going by that name for way over half of her life now, so it might as well be her real name. Given her global profile, you'd expect that everyone would know what her real name actually was, but surprisingly few do. Can you guess? If not, it's.... Madonna.
That's right, it's her real name. Everyone assumes it's a pseudonym, but she was born Madonna Louise Ciccone on August 16th, 1958. The name does of course have religious connotations, and that's because she's from a strict Catholic family. Her mother, who passed away when she was less than ten years old, was also called Madonna. It would be an incredibly pretentious name to choose for yourself - which isn't entirely out of the question for Madge - but in this case, she didn't.
Another inventive entry from the world of rap music. Rappers names are always specifically designed to make them sound cool and edgy, and sometimes it can be a disappointment when you find out their real name; especially if it's one that sounds plain and boring. That isn't the case for the legendary Snoop Dogg, who's known to his family as Calvin Broadus. It doesn't seem to suit him now because you know him so well as Snoop, but there would have been nothing wrong with it at the start of his career.
The name comes from a seemingly cruel nickname his parents gave him when he was young; he was said to resemble the cartoon dog 'Snoopy', and so that's what they called him to tease him! Like many others on this list, he took the name and worked with it, becoming 'Snoop Dogg' when he started making demo tapes with his cousin Nate Dogg.
British pop and rock legend Elton John; one of the most famous men ever to step onto a stage and play the piano; recently announced that he will be retiring from public performances when he's finished one final tour of the world. He's in his early 70s now, so the desire to live the quiet life is understandable. When he gives it all up, though, will he go back to being called plain old Reg Dwight?
At the start of his career, when he was playing in pubs, he was simply called 'Reggie'. He knew he had to step it up when the stages grew larger though, and paid tribute to two of his idols; Elton Dean, a saxophonist, and Long John Baldry, who were one of his favorite blues bands. He went on to become much more famous than either of them.
Although it would be nice to believe that there are parents out there who'd name a child 'Whoopi', sadly it isn't the case. It was always safe to assume that the first part of Whoopi Goldberg's name was a pseudonym. The fact that 'Goldberg' isn't correct either might surprise you though. The 'Star Trek' and 'Sister Act' star is really Caryn Johnson.
The only other place you might have heard 'whoopi' used is in reference to a whoopee cushion, and that's exactly where she took the name from. 'Goldberg' has more cynical origins though. Goldberg's mother thought that her daughter would need a 'Jewish sounding name' to make it in the world of showbiz, and like a good daughter she took the advice. We can't say it turned out badly for her, although whether it was necessary is another matter!
Bono is a man who encourages extreme opinions within the rock music community. People either love him or hate him, with very few who stand in between. Some of his habits; like forcing his band's album onto iPhones and paying to have his Stetson flown around the world on a private jet; make it easy to understand why there are those who aren't fans. The tale of how he got his name doesn't help, either.
Bono is actually plain old Paul David Hewson; not a name that was going to cut it in the late seventies when the band was formed, and so he chose a stage name. He went for 'Bono Vox', which is Latin for 'great voice', having apparently been inspired by a hearing aid shop he'd seen in Dublin. It was later shortened to just Bono and has been ever since.
There's something to be said for being the first person with your own name to become really famous; you can just keep it and turn it into a trademark. Somehow, we'd made it all the way into the 21st century without the world ever seeing a truly famous Adele, and so when it happened for the British singer of 'Skyfall' and 'Someone Like You', she cut off the rest of her name, kept her real first name, and turned it into a brand.
In full, the multi-award-winning vocalist should properly be called Adele Laurie Blue Adkins, which is quite the mouthful. Of all the real names she had, you'd have suspected that she might have used 'Blue' for at least part of her stage name (Adele Blue has a ring to it, no?), but she may have been put off by the fact that 'Blue' are a popular boyband back at home in the UK.
It's been a few years now, and we still miss George Michael badly. The prolific and popular singer-songwriter had a greatest hits catalog that very few people outside of Michael Jackson and the Beatles could dream of, and he left us far too soon. But would we have heard of him at all if he'd stuck true to his real name?
Michael first made it big as part of the pop group 'Wham!', who are arguably most famous for 'Last Christmas', which you'll hear hundreds of times every December for the rest of your life. Being of Greek origin, his real name was Georgios Panayiotou. The band's record company were trying to market the band to teenage girls and advised him to drop the difficult-to-pronounce second name for something easier to say and remember. Obviously, he took their advice.
Jane Seymour is just a great, classic Hollywood name. It's simple, but it just oozes class and respectability, and you can imagine it on a poster with Marilyn Monroe and Jack Lemmon in the 1940s just as easily as you can picture it with Jude Law or Leonardo di Caprio today. Great names are timeless, and Seymour's certainly is. But, unfortunately, it isn't real.
You can completely understand why she chose to change her name when she went into acting when you find out what she's really called, though; it's Joyce Penelope Wilhelmina Frankenberg. "Joyce Penelope" had potential as a star name, but we like what she eventually came out with better. Anyway, to us, she'll always be 'Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman"; even if she had first captured the world's eye as a Bond Girl many years before that!
Imagine having the good fortune to be as great at playing piano as Alicia Keys is, and actually having the surname 'Keys'. It would be too good to be true, wouldn't it? And so, alas, it is. She chose the name to go with her profession, after she'd already decided on what she wanted to do for a living. Behind closed doors, she's actually Alicia Augello-Cook. 'Alicia Augello' sounds like a great stage name to us, put perhaps she didn't want to show favoritism to one side of her family over the other!
'Keys' wasn't actually her first choice of stage name. For a few appearances and recordings, she was known as 'Alicia Wild', but her mother never liked it because she thought it made her sound like a stripper! Eventually, Keys took her mom's advice and swapped names again, this time for the one we've all come to know her by.
Ashton Kutcher is one of those names that sounds like it comes from the Golden Age of Hollywood, when leading men had names like 'Rock Hudson', intended to make them sound rugged, macho and tough. But Kutcher isn't a throwback to that era; he's just using most of the parts of his real birth name.
The actor, serial investor, and husband of actress Mila Kunis, made a startling admission when he was on stage at the Teen Choice Awards in 2013. His full name is actually Christopher Ashton Kutcher. There was a surprised scream from the audience. He just doesn't look like a 'Christopher' at all, and you can't imagine anybody calling him by that name! It isn't clear when or why the first name disappeared from Kutcher's life, but I think we can all agree that we're glad it did.
Superstar DJ Calvin Harris seems like he's likely to be using his real name. When DJs change their name, they usually go for something elaborate or influenced by rave culture; Oxide, Neutrino, Avicii, the Chemical Brothers and many more stand as testament to that. So why would you change your name to Calvin Harris if you were, in fact, called Adam Richard Wiles?
The explanation is a little bizarre. When he was trying to make a name for himself, Harris mixed various kinds of music, and his first minor release was a soul track. He thought his real name was 'too white', and so went with the more 'racially ambiguous' Calvin Harris, on the grounds that it might be more acceptable to his intended audience. Those are some murky waters to wade into, and he's been stuck with the name ever since. Whoops!
There's a lot to be said for having a good alliterative name; they're more pleasing to say out loud, and also a lot easier for people to remember. When you're an aspiring actor or singer - or both - that could count for everything. A talent agent might have seen a hundred people the day they saw you. If you have a catchy name, they're more likely to remember you the next day.
We imagine that this was the logical process followed by Mandy Moore. She's barely even deviated from her real name - Amanda Moore - but the slight tweak to that first name just makes it so much easier to get into your head. Plus, breaking through as a young teenager, the name 'Mandy' seems cuter than 'Amanda' does, which was probably part of the reasoning, too.
We're back in the world of rap again, and this time it's Mr. Beyoncé Knowles! Everyone realizes that he isn't really called Jay-Z, and many people know that his real name is Shawn Carter. He's never made any attempt to hide his real identity, and the name has been in the public domain for a very long time. So how did he arrive at the pseudonym that made him famous?
There are actually two versions of this story that do the rounds. The first is that as a young rapper, he was known as 'Jazzy', but had to give that name up when he made it big because of Jazzy Jeff. Imagine wanting to be taken seriously in the rap game when people were confusing you for Will Smith's friend from 'The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air'. And so, 'Jazzy' became 'Jay-Z'. That sounds plausible. The other, more simple explanation is that he took the name from the J/Z subway lines that stopped near his home when he was young.
The greatest ever rapper to come from Canada has a slightly softer image than many of his rap music contemporaries. Rappers will often have lyrics about how they want to go to a club, drink expensive champagne and take girls home in multiple numbers. Drake would probably rather take them out for tea and cakes in his Prius. But did Aubrey Graham actually name himself after a type of duck just to drive the 'gentle' message home?
Actually, no he didn't. Drake is simply his middle name. Given the choice of the three names he was born with, there was only one that was going to make him stand out in the music world, and so he went with it. The world just isn't ready for a rap star called Aubrey, no matter how smiley and polite he seems to be!
He's dated supermodels, he has one of the most underrated voices in music for decades, and he's also constantly one of the world's most fashionable men. But for the whole time he's been famous, he's also had to put up with jokes about the animal he seemingly took his stage name from. So why did the 'Kiss from A Rose' singer choose the name he did?
He didn't. There's no great mystery to it, it just happens to be his real first name. You can understand why he went with a short version though; his full name is Seal Henry Olusegun Olumide Adeola Samuel. That's never going to fit on a record sleeve, a billboard or a t-shirt, so his legions of fans are probably glad that he spared them the trouble by cutting almost all of it out. Plus, there's nothing wrong with seals, they're some of the most adorable creatures you could ever hope to meet!
Choose a name for the life you want to lead, not the life you want to have! If you intend on becoming an entertainment legend, actually putting the word 'legend' onto your stage name isn't a bad way to go about it. The only risk is falling flat on your face. There would be a little irony if you were stuck playing tiny venues to crowds of twenty or thirty if you were called John Legend. Such is the level of his talent, though, that it was never likely to happen.
John Roger Stephens is adamant that he didn't actually bestow the nickname on himself, though. That would have been too egotistical. Instead, as his reputation as a showman grew, his friends simply started referring to him as 'John the Legend', and it eventually shrunk down to the name he uses today. If that's what the public want to call you, you should probably just go with it!
As we're seeing frequently the further we get into this list, sometimes people start off with the basics of a great name when they're born, and just have to adapt it a little bit to make it work for them. That was the case for '30 Rock' and 'Saturday Night Live' star Tina Fey.
Elizabeth Stamatina Fey is the true full name of this actress, and so all she's done is drop the first name and shorten the second name. We actually feel like that's a bit of a loss. We've never encountered a 'Stamatina' before and it's a shame to waste a name so unusual. She could have been the very first one to achieve fame, and there might be babies called 'Stamatina' all over America by now if she'd stuck with it! Oh well. She's made it to the big time regardless.
Acting legend Natalie Portman, famous for 'Star Wars' and her surprisingly foul-mouthed appearances as a rapper on 'Saturday Night Live', doesn't on the surface appear to have a false name; there's nothing bold or pretentious about it. That's because it's rooted in reality. She's really called Natalie, and her chosen second name is actually her grandmother's maiden name. She'd been working within the industry under her real name, but when she got her first movie role in 'The Professional', she decided it was the right time to change it.
There were two reasons as to why. Firstly, she wanted to protect her family's privacy. At the time, she was able to walk down the street without being recognized, but she knew that the film role would change all that. Secondly, her real second name is 'Hershlag'. It's not as catchy as Portman, and unfortunately it sounds very close to quite a rude insult in British slang, making it unsuitable for use on the global stage!
The world's most famous goth has been accused of many things during his career, most of which he turned out not to have done. One report said he'd killed animals on stage; others that he'd inflicted injuries on either himself or people in the front row, as well as performing Satanic rites and burning Bibles. None of those things actually happened, but they generated fantastic press for the heavy metal band that bears his name.
He probably wouldn't have been able to persuade fans of that genre to take him seriously if he'd just gone by the name his parents gave him: Brian Warner. There are very few world famous Brians out there! His stage name comes from a grizzly place; wanting to combine beauty and horror, he took the first name of Marilyn Monroe and the last name of Charles Manson. The intent was to shock. It worked.
The man with the top hat who's been making legendary guitar riffs as part of Guns n' Roses for the past thirty years; albeit with quite a long time away in the middle of that period; has always been known quite simply as 'Slash'. It's a great nickname for a rock star to have, and especially a guitarist, as it's seemingly descriptive of his abilities with the instrument.
That's not where the name came from though; he was given the nickname by the actor Seymour Cassel, because he was 'always in a hurry, zipping from one place to another'. The British music legend's real name is actually Saul Hudson, which is a fine name on its own and would make a better choice as a pseudonym than many of the fake names that feature on this list but then again, it just wouldn't have fit the billing for one of the greatest rock and roll bands the world has ever seen.
There's nothing showy or flamboyant about the name 'Emma Stone', so why has the rapidly-rising American actress chosen it? Was she in La La Land when it became time to choose a working title? Actually no; she wanted to use her real name. She just wasn't allowed to!
At the age of sixteen, as she got more and more acting work, she found out that there was already an Emily Stone - which is her real name - active in Hollywood, and so she'd have to choose a new identity. She initially chose 'Riley Stone' but couldn't get used to it and so decided to go as close to her real name as possible without treading on the toes of the other actress. She also admits that her favorite Spice Girl was Emma Bunton when she was growing up, which helps! Apparently, most of her friends know her simply as 'M', which makes her sound like she's in a Bond movie.
Work, work, work, work, work. Rihanna has done plenty of that, and it's her prolific output and relentless touring that's seen her become a star and stay there. The Barbadian princess has admirers all over the world and is more or less a one-woman industry. Whether you first fell in love with her when she released 'Umbrella', didn't catch on until 'Rude Boy' or were there right from the start with 'Pon de Replay', almost everybody has a favorite Rihanna jam.
There's nothing wrong with her real name either; to give her her full title, she's Robyn Rihanna Fenty. Now you know that, she almost looks like a Robyn. She might have gone with it as her stage name in another world as well, but a successful Swedish pop star who'd been active for around a decade longer than Rihanna had already taken the name and used it well.
Katy Perry is such a cute, sweet, 'girl next door' name, which matches up with the personality Perry seemed to have when she first emerged on the pop music scene ten years ago. It's not the name she was born with, though; it's the one she chose. The name you'd find on her birth certificate is Katheryn Hudson.
Shortening Katheryn to Katy is common, and something than many Catherine, Katherine and Cathys have done over the years. She actually self-released an album under the name 'Katy Hudson', which is a real collector's item if you can find it; it can sell for over $100 on eBay because it's a rarity. As for what prompted the switch from 'Hudson' to 'Perry'? Nobody really knows. Maybe the 'California Girl' just picked a name, and she liked it!
By this point, we're fairly sure everyone in the world knows who Cardi B is; her profile has gone through the roof in the past couple of years and she's a genuine household name. The name you know in your household, though, isn't her real one. There would be no prizes for guessing that her second name isn't really 'B', but even 'Cardi' has been seemingly drawn from nowhere. This superstar was born Belcalis Almanzar.
Her stage name makes slightly more sense when you find out that the 'B' stands for 'Bacardi'. As she's explained herself in the past, her sister's name is Hennessy, so everyone started calling her Bacardi as a rum joke. She chose 'Cardi' because it rhymed with the drink, and found she'd created a nickname for herself which has well and truly stuck.
The colorful, brash and bold singer and rapper Nicki Minaj is just effortlessly cool. People seemingly queue up to have her feature on their tracks, and she's enjoyed plenty of success in her own right as well. 'Anaconda', 'Bang Bang' and 'Starships' are world class dance floor fillers.
Life wasn't so easy back when Minaj was Onika Tanya Manaj, though. She originally wanted to be an actress and worked several jobs at the same time trying to build up the funds to pursue her dream. She once worked as a waitress at Red Lobster in the Bronx but was fired for being rude to customers; she admits that this was a recurring theme for her in conventional employment. As it turned out, all she needed to do was tweak her first name, swap an I for an A in her last name, and just like those starships, she was meant to fly!